Papal visit latest: 'You go into an orbit. This is dangerous' - Pope Francis warns of social media threat

Latest: Pope Francis has warned people of the threat social media poses to relationships.

The pontiff said social media can serve to build a network of friendships and solidarity, but he said it should only be used in moderation.

He said it was important that social media “never becomes a threat to the real-life relationships by imprisoning us in a virtual reality and isolating us from the very real relationships that challenge us to grow”.

Speaking at the World Meeting of Families event in Croke Park, Pope Francis said families should question whether they need to cut down on the time they spend using technology and instead spend more quality time with each other.

“When you use social media too much you go into a sort of an orbit when, at the dinner table, instead of talking to each other within the family, each of you uses his phone to connect with the outside world,” the Pope said.

“You go into an orbit. This is dangerous. Why? Because it takes away the completeness of the family and leads you to, takes us to a fuzzy life without any substance.”

7.42pm: Pope Francis spends over an hour with clerical abuse victims before attending festival

Pope Francis is at Croke Park to address the Festival of Families.

The pontiff was slightly delayed as he travelled across the city ahead of the appearance around halfway through the event.

Pope Francis arrives at Croke Park. Pic: PA

Pope Francis was transported around the stadium in a mobile vehicle surrounded by members of his security team, giving those sitting across the stadium a chance to glimpse him.

The audience of an estimated 82,500 cheered and many rose to their feet as he approached.

The pope is set to address the event later on.

Pope Francis met with eight victims of cleric abuse for over an hour before making his way to the festival event.

The private meeting, which the Pope had promised before arriving in Ireland, gave those impacted by church abuse a chance to express their views.

The 90-minute encounter unfolded in the Papal Nuncio’s residence in Dublin.

In a statement, the Vatican confirmed the meeting between Pope Francis and abuse victims took place this evening.

Among the eight survivors present was Marie Collins, who was abused by a priest as a child.

Yesterday at the World Meeting of Families, she said there is still denial within the church about the scale of clerical abuse, and called for "every rotten apple" to be removed.

Abuse survivors Reverend Patrick McCafferty, Reverend Joe McDonald, councillor Damien O'Farrell and Bernadette Fahy were also present at this evening's meeting.

As were Paul Jude Redmond and Clodagh Malone, who were both born in mother and baby homes.

One survivor, a victim of Fr Tony Walsh, chose to remain anonymous.

They asked the Pope to clearly and publicly state that mothers who lost their babies to adoption had done nothing wrong, and say the Pope agreed to include the message in his Phoenix Park closing mass tomorrow.

The Pope also apologised to them for what happened in mother and baby homes.

6.48pm: Festival of Families begins in front of 82,500 at Croke Park

The Festival of Families event has started at the Croke Park stadium in Dublin.

Pope Francis is set to be the star draw at the event, which will also see performances from country stars Daniel O’Donnell, Nathan Carter and The Priests.

An estimated 82,500 people are among the audience in the stadium.

Attendees take part in a 'Mexican Wave' at the Festival of Families at Croke Park. Pic: Sportsfile

The event will hear five testimonies from families in Ireland, Canada, Iraq and Africa.

It opened with the performance of the ninth-century Irish hymn, Brigit Be Bithmaith, and will also include a performance of Riverdance by 500 children from dance schools around Ireland.

It will close around 8.30pm with a performance of Ave Maria.

4.38pm: Founder of Capuchin Day Centre hails Pope as 'true brother of the poor'

Amid the cheers from supporters, protesters shouted and swore at the Pope as he passed the entrance to Dublin Castle on Dame Street.

As the popemobile passed City Hall, the crowd cheered and clapped.

Thousands gathered on Dame Street to watch as Pope Francis passed by at a quick pace – waving and smiling.

Crowds on O'Connell Street, Dublin waiting to see Pope Francis. Pic: PA

After finishing his popemobile drive through the city centre, the Pope paid a private visit to the Capuchin Day Centre, which supports many of Dublin’s homeless.

The founder of the centre, Brother Kevin Crowley, hailed the pontiff’s work with the needy.

“You are a true brother of the people and a true brother of the poor,” he said.

The Pope praised the work of the centre.

“The church has real need of this witness, so thank you,” he said.

Pope Francis entered the day centre for the homeless by a back entrance.

The Tricolour flew overhead as he pulled up and stepped down from the popemobile.

Addressing a gathering of disadvantaged people who use the centre, the Pope thanked them for trusting the Capuchin fathers.

“They help you without taking away your dignity,” he said.

“That’s the face of Jesus Christ.”

The Pope offered a blessing to those in attendance before meeting a number of volunteers who work in the centre.

3.33pm: Pope advises couples on marriage before travelling to meet homeless families

Resuming his itinerary after lunch, the Pope embarked on a more public-facing phase of his visit.

He passed close to the site of a former Magdalene laundry as he arrived on Sean McDermott Street in the north inner city to meet well-wishers outside Our Lady of Lourdes Church.

The notorious laundry institutions run by Catholic religious orders effectively incarcerated thousands of young women from troubled backgrounds and forced them to work under harsh conditions.

In 1979, Pope John Paul II was due to visit Our Lady of Lourdes church but famously failed to stop when his Popemobile tour of city fell behind schedule.

Supporters wait for the arrival of Pope Francis outside Our Lady of Lourdes Church on Sean McDermott Street, Dublin, the resting place of Matt Talbot, on the first day of his visit to Ireland. Photo: PA Wire

The present-day pontiff went on a walkabout outside the church today, shaking hands with flag-waving supporters and kissing children before boarding his Popemobile for a short trip to St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral.

Inside the cathedral, the Pope sat for a number of minutes of silent prayer at an altar that houses a perpetually lit candle for the victims of clerical sex abuse.

The visit also focused on the institution of marriage and, after his prayers, the Pope heard testimonies and was asked questions from local couples, young and old.

Pope Francis waves to the waiting crowds on O'Connell St. Photo: PA Wire

The Pope said looking at the congregation compromising hundreds of young couples he questioned those that claimed people no longer wanted to get married.

“Getting married and sharing your lives is a beautiful thing,” he told them.

He said older people had great wisdom, then joked: “Even the mothers-in-law, even they are wise.”

The Pope also offered advice to couples who found themselves rowing.

“A marriage with no fights must be boring,” he said.

“If even plates fly and crockery flies the secret is to make it up before the end of the day.”

1.38pm: Pope speaks of 'pain and shame' in failure to tackle clerical abuse in Ireland

The Pope has spoken of his “pain and shame” at the failure of church authorities to tackle the “grave scandal” of clerical abuse in Ireland.

On the first day of his historic Irish visit, the Pontiff said people had a right to be outraged at the response of senior church figures to the “repellent crimes” inflicted on young people.

Pope Francis delivers a speech in St Patrick's Hall at Dublin Castle. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

“With regard to the most vulnerable, I cannot fail to acknowledge the grave scandal caused in Ireland by the abuse of young people by members of the Church charged with responsibility for their protection and education,” he said.

“The failure of ecclesiastical authorities – bishops, religious superiors, priests and others – adequately to address these repellent crimes has rightly given rise to outrage and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community.

"I myself share those sentiments.”

However, the Pope said the Church in Ireland had played a role in child welfare which could not be obscured.

“It is my hope that the gravity of the abuse scandals, which have cast light on the failings of many, will serve to emphasise the importance of the protection of minors and vulnerable adults on the part of society as a whole,” he added.

“In this regard, all of us are aware of how urgent it is to provide our young people with wise guidance and sound values on their journey to maturity.”

The Pope said he also wished to acknowledge women who in the past had “endured particularly difficult circumstances”.

In his speech, the Pope also expressed hope that remaining obstacles in the Northern Ireland peace process can be overcome.

Francis praised those who helped forge the historic Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

In an apparent reference to the political deadlock at Stormont, which has seen the region without a properly functioning devolved government for 20 months, Francis said: “We can give thanks for the two decades of peace that followed this historic agreement while expressing firm hope that the peace process will overcome every remaining obstacle and help give birth to a future of harmony, reconciliation and mutual trust.”

Some prominent Irish critics of church teaching on social issues were present as the Pope addressed the specially-invited audience.

Former President Mary McAleese and Senator David Norris, a gay-rights activist who campaigned for same-sex marriage recognition in Ireland, were present, as well as Marie Collins, who campaigns against clerical sex abuse.

Update - 12.30pm: Taoiseach acknowledges 'dark aspects' of Church's history

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has acknowledged the "dark aspects" of the Catholic Church’s history in his speech in front of Pope Francis at Dublin Castle.

Mr Varadkar said the past treatment of many women and young people by church and state had left a history of “sorrow and shame” and urged the Pope to “listen to the victims”.

Pope Francis and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Dublin Castle. Photo: Maxwells

In a speech in front of the pontiff inside Dublin Castle, Mr Varadkar said the past treatment of many women and young people by church and state had left a history of “sorrow and shame”.

“In place of Christian charity, forgiveness and compassion, far too often there was judgement, severity and cruelty, in particular towards women and children and those on the margins,” he said.

“Magdalene Laundries, Mother and Baby Homes, industrial schools, illegal adoptions and clerical child abuse are stains on our State, our society and also the Catholic Church. Wounds are still open and there is much to be done to bring about justice and truth and healing for victims and survivors.

“Holy Father, I ask that you use your office and influence to ensure this is done here in Ireland and across the world.

“In recent weeks, we have all listened to heart-breaking stories from Pennsylvania of brutal crimes perpetrated by people within the Catholic Church, and then obscured to protect the institution at the expense of innocent victims. It is a story all too tragically familiar here in Ireland.

“There can only be zero tolerance for those who abuse innocent children or who facilitate that abuse."

“We must now ensure that from words flow actions. Above all, Holy Father, I ask to you to listen to the victims.”

Mr Varadkar said he hoped the papal visit marked a “new chapter” in Ireland’s relationship with the Catholic Church.

“The Ireland of the 21st century is a very different place today than it was in the past. Ireland is increasingly diverse,” he said.

“One in six of us were not born here and there are more and more people who adhere to other faiths, or who are comfortable in declaring that they subscribe to no organised religion.

“We have voted in our parliament and by referendum to modernise our laws – understanding that marriages do not always work, that women should make their own decisions and that families come in many forms including those headed by a grandparent, lone parent or same-sex parents or parents who are divorced.”

He added: “Holy Father, I believe that the time has now come for us to build a new relationship between church and state in Ireland – a new covenant for the 21st century.

"It is my hope that your visit marks the opening of a new chapter in the relationship between Ireland and the Catholic Church."

“Building on our intertwined history, and learning from our shared mistakes, it can be one in which religion is no longer at the centre of our society, but in which it still has an important place.”

Mr Varadkar has told Pope Francis that there are a huge number of people in Ireland who have faith in their hearts but who feel excluded and alienated from the Church because of legacy issues.

During a private meeting between Mr Varadkar and the pontiff at Dublin Castle, Mr Varadkar told the Pope he was very welcome to Ireland and that he would see that welcome for himself by the crowds that turn out to see him.

A spokesman for Mr Varadkar said the Taoiseach thanked the Pope for his statements on climate change, on accepting refugees and international development, and told him it made it easier for politicians to make the right decisions.

They also spoke about Irish missionaries and the role they play in Pope Francis’ home country of Argentina.

The meeting lasted about 10 minutes and was conducted mostly through translation.

Update - 12.15pm: President Higgins tells Pope of anger felt by clerical abuse victims

President Michael D Higgins has told Pope Francis of the anger felt by those in Ireland who were abused as children by Catholic clerics.

A spokesman for Mr Higgins said that during the meeting, the Irish President raised with the pope the “immense suffering and hurt caused by child sex abuse perpetrated by some within the Catholic Church”.

In a statement issued after the meeting, the spokesman said Mr Higgins also told Pope Francis of the “anger which had been conveyed to him at what was perceived to be the impunity enjoyed by those who had the responsibility of bringing such abuses for action by the appropriate authorities and have not done so."

The President welcomed the honest and forthright language that His Holiness used when addressing the issue in his recent Letter to the People of God,” the spokesman for the President said.

“He conveyed to Pope Francis the widely-held view that all would benefit from a set of actions that gave the necessary assurances to all citizens past, present and future, of all faiths and none.”

The two men also agreed on the importance of protecting vulnerable communities and individuals, and discussed issues including homelessness, health, education and nutrition.

This was the third time that Pope Francis and Mr Higgins have met. Last May they met at the Vatican.

Pope Francis leaves following his meeting (Danny Lawson/PA)

The Pope completed his visit to Aras an Uachtarain by planting a tree in the grounds of the historic property.

Francis planted an Irish oak tree on the lawn in front of the south portico. In doing so, he became the second Pope to plant a tree on the grounds of the residence.

Pope John Paul II planted an Irish oak on the same lawn during the last papal visit in 1979.

Pope Francis plants a tree during his visit to meet Michael D Higgins (Joe Giddens/PA)

A Syrian family, who are asylum seekers, were invited to observe the ceremony. They watched the proceedings alongside Aras an Uachtarain staff.

Other dignitaries who have planted trees on the lawn at Aras an Uachtarain include Presidents John F Kennedy and Eamon de Valera, the Queen and President Barack Obama.

Update - 11.45: Pope Francis meets the President at Áras an Uachtaráin

Pope Francis has been welcomed to Áras an Uachtaráin by President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina.

Pope Francis with President Michael D Higgins. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

The greeting party also included the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone.

An Irish Army band played the national anthems of Vatican City and Ireland during the arrival ceremony.

Moving inside the property, the Pontiff signed the visitor's book before entering into a private meeting with President Higgins.

Update - 10.30am: Pope Francis has landed in Dublin

The Pope has touched down at Dublin airport to begin an historic two-day visit to Ireland.

Senior Irish clerics and other dignitaries gathered on the runway to greet the Pope after his flight landed at 10.26am.

Irish and Vatican flags were flown from the cockpit window as the aircraft taxied toward its stand.

Pope Francis as he arrives at Dublin Airport. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

After walking down the steps from the plane, the Pope was greeted by Irish Foreign Affairs minister Simon Coveney, his wife Ruth and their three daughters Jessica, Beth and Annalise.

Mr Coveney acknowledged that many people had mixed feelings about the visit.

“I think it’s been difficult for many people, for victims, for Catholics and many of the clergy,” he said.

“But I hope and expect that this weekend will be a very powerful moment. He has a personality that can reach out to Irish people.”

He is now on his way to meet President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin.

A family of Syrian asylum seekers will attend the tree planting ceremony in the Áras.

After that, the Pontiff travels here to Dublin Castle where he will meet Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Earlier: Pope begins historic visit to Ireland

Pope Francis waves as he boards an airplane at Rome's Fiumicino International Airport this morning. Photo: AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

The Pope will arrive in Dublin later this morning for the start of an historic two-day visit to Ireland.

The plane carrying the Pontiff has left Italy and is due to land in Dublin at 10.30am.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to welcome Pope Francis during his whistle-stop tour of the capital city and Co Mayo over the weekend.

The Pontiff will witness a country that has undergone seismic social changes in the four decades since the last Papal visit in 1979, when John Paul II was lauded by a nation shaped by its relationship with the Catholic Church.

While the Pope will receive a warm reception from the thousands of pilgrims who have travelled to be part of the occasion, he will also be met by protesters angry at how the church dealt with multiple clerical sex abuse scandals that have damaged trust in the religious institution and seriously weakened its influence on Irish society.

Francis will meet a number of abuse victims in a private meeting amid expectation he will use his public utterances elsewhere to confront the emotive issue.

Earlier this week, the Pope wrote a 2,000-word letter to Catholics in which he condemned the crime of sexual abuse by priests and subsequent cover-ups.

The Pope demanded accountability in response to fresh revelations in Pennsylvania in the United States of decades of misconduct by clerics.

(PA Graphics)

Francis is ostensibly in Ireland to attend the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) – a major global church event focused on promoting family values.

However, he will also fulfil a number of other engagements, including meetings with President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

With Ireland in the midst of a high-profile homelessness problem, the Pope will also meet a number of impacted families at a centre run by a religious order.

Around 100,000 people are expected to line the streets of Dublin city centre this afternoon as the Pope passes through in his Pope Mobile.

Merchandise of Pope Francis on sale in Dublin (Aaron Chown/PA)

This evening, he will join 80,000 pilgrims at a musical festival in Croke Park.

Tomorrow, the Pope will fly west to Co Mayo where he will follow in the footsteps of John Paul II and take part in a religious service at a Holy shrine in Knock.

He will then return to Dublin for the closing centrepiece of the WMOF event – an outdoor Mass in front of an expected congregation of half a million people.

PA & Digital Desk

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